Why Are Church Leaders Such Poor Managers?

You would think that we as church leaders would be exceptional at managing people… we’re in the people business of sorts.  Our entire jobs revolve around creating worship experiences in which people can connect to God.  It’s a relationally charged environment. An extroverts heaven – lots of people all the time.  The majority of our work as ministry leaders is done by working with and through others.

And yet, ministry environments are where I’ve observed some of the worst people management.

Time and time again I’ve coached ministry leaders through management maladies.  For whatever reason we flounder when it comes to effectively leading employees.

Here are some reasons why I believe ministry leaders are prone to be poor managers:

  1. Seminary doesn’t focus on teaching us to be managers.  While our training equips us to be good pastors, it rarely teaches us the principles for people management.
  2. We’re less comfortable with conversations that require accountability.  As pastors we find ourselves coaching and spurring others on to Christ-likeness. As managers we must hold people accountable to expectations as well as deliver consequences for unmet objectives.  This feels like it runs in opposition to the grace message we communicate.  (It doesn’t by the way… remember the truth side of the equation.)
  3. Ministry teams are lean.  Human resources staff are a luxury, if you’re able to hire them at all.  As a result, training and development for managers is non-existent.

As leaders we’re responsible for the people under our care.  Hebrews 13:17 reminds us that we as leaders will have to “give an account” for how we lead.

We can not be content with disgruntled employees, under-performing employees, unmet expectations, poor communication, sideways employee/employer relationships.  We can not avoid these conversations.

We can not allow our ignorance or fear to keep us from leading well.

No employee should be the casualty of our poor leadership.

If an employee is not meeting expectations, it’s your responsibility as the leader to lean in and address it.

Have you found yourself in some difficult management moments?  What training do you wish you would have had to better equip you?

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  • Sue Detweiler February 17, 2014  

    Jenni, yes I have found myself in difficult management moments. However, I have experienced God’s grace giving the wisdom needed. I took a lot of counseling and pastoral care courses with my M.Div — but really the best training was on the field. I have also been thankful for good books and resources. We developed a course using John Maxwell’s book, 25 Ways to Win with People. If we remain teachable, we learn as we serve.

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  • Rob Poznanski April 1, 2014  

    Hi Jenni, i am a little behind, but a huge congrats. When we made the decision to leap out of Nashville/Crosspoint to make the trek to Seattle, WA, it was a very difficult and heart wrenching decision, but one where i am starting to see the fruit! Congrats to you!

    • Jenni Catron April 4, 2014  

      Thanks Rob! It’s a crazy journey but have so much trust that God is directing it. We’re closer to you guys so hopefully we’ll see you soon!